Every farmer knows that good young hands are crucial to the industry, yet they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. According to a recent survey funded by Land O’Lakes, just 3% of college grads surveyed and 9% of millennials overall had even thought about an agriculture career.
It’s not surprising that young job seekers often look elsewhere: Due in large part to consolidation and automation, agriculture employment has dropped from 41% of the U.S. workforce at the start of 20th century to less than 2% at the start of the 21st, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In spite of this decline and the message it sends to our youth, the USDA estimates that more than 20,000 agriculture jobs go unfilled each year.
If you’d like more young people to consider a career as part of your farm or ag business, try these tactics to attract the best and brightest.
Be an advocate. These days, you can’t expect applicants to seek you out. So do what you can to reach out to them by sharing your passion and the reasons you decided to devote your life to farming. Start early — before they reach college or even high school. Offer to speak to grade school classes and host hands-on visits by school groups or summer camps to learn what farming is all about.
Get social. Trade publications are important, but don’t forget that young people live in a digital world. Use Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels to get the word out on farming. Create or share videos, articles and other educational content that highlights the importance and joy of raising animals or growing
Show them a path to success. Young people may still associate farm work with outdated stereotypes of long hours for meager pay. In fact, farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers averaged $64,170 in income in 2015, nearly as much as accountants ($67,190), according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Showing prospects a path to rise to management in your organization may help convince them that farming is a career as well as a job.
Emphasize sustainability. Millennial workers and the generation just behind them (Gen Z) are deeply interested in environmental and social issues. Groups such as the Young Farmers Coalition seek to attract new generations of farmers by focusing on sustainable practices. Considering that farmers feed the world, you may attract young workers by showing them why agriculture isn’t just a potentially lucrative career, but a noble one, too.
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